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40 Ways You’re Ruining Your Heart, Say Doctors | Eat This Not That

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What could be worse than a broken heart? The fact that you may be doing the breaking. According to the CDC, heart disease is the number one killer of Americans every year—accounting for one in every four deaths—many of them preventable. You can make easy changes to your lifestyle to reduce your risk. Here are 40 things you’ve probably been doing that hurt your heart—and what you can do to make it better. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure Signs You May Have Already Had COVID.

Woman touching her shoulderWoman touching her shoulder
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Most of us think stabbing chest pain is the telltale sign of a heart attack. In the movies, there’s the classic scene where the man gasps, clutches his heart, and collapses. But heart attacks don’t only strike men—heart disease is the number one killer of women in the U.S. And in women, the symptoms can be much less dramatic. According to experts at the National Heart Association, women having a heart attack may feel:

  • Uncomfortable pressure or a feeling of fullness in the chest that lasts for a few minutes, or goes away and comes back
  • Pain that radiates into the shoulders, neck, jaw, back, or either arm
  • Shortness of breath with or without chest pain
  • Breaking out in a cold sweat, vomiting and nausea, extreme fatigue, or feeling lightheaded

The Rx: These heart attack signs may be subtle, but they’re no less deadly. Man or woman, if you have any of these signs, call 911 and get to a hospital.

Young woman in pajamas having heart attack in her bedroom (woman, pain, stroke, chest)Young woman in pajamas having heart attack in her bedroom (woman, pain, stroke, chest)
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You’re out shopping with a friend when your arm gets tingly and your words start slurring. This couldn’t be a stroke—you’re too young for that, right? Nope. Compared to 20 years ago, strokes are on the rise in people under the age of 45. A study in JAMA Neurology found that acute ischemic stroke hospitalization rates in women aged 18 to 34 rose nearly 32 percent. Researchers think this is linked to an increase in high cholesterol, tobacco use, high blood pressure and obesity.

The Rx: Know the signs of a stroke. This acronym is easy to remember: FAST, which stands for facial drooping, arm weakness, speech difficulties, and time to call 911.

Middle aged caucasian man with blue eyes pulls at lower lid with one fingerMiddle aged caucasian man with blue eyes pulls at lower lid with one finger
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If you notice a white or gray ring around your iris, and you aren’t a zombie, it might mean you have arcus senilis—a potential sign of high cholesterol. According to the Mayo Clinic, it’s not unusual if you’re over 30 years of age. If you’re younger than that, it could be cause for concern. Whitening in the cornea in younger people is a potential sign of familial hyperlipidemia, a common genetic disorder that increases blood fats and increases your risk of a heart attack.

The Rx: Make an appointment with your doctor if you notice these white rings around your cornea to check your cholesterol levels.

Young Man Cleaning His Teeth In Front Of MirrorYoung Man Cleaning His Teeth In Front Of Mirror
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Taking care of your teeth isn’t just about having a bright white smile. The American Heart Association’s journal Hypertension says there is a link between gum disease and heart disease. Poor dental health increases the risk of a bacterial infection in your bloodstream (because it could get in through your bleeding gums). And, there is a connection between tooth loss and coronary artery disease.

The Rx: We know it’s a pain but floss every night, brush your teeth at least twice daily, and go to your dentist for a cleaning.

Frustrated Hispanic female driver in a carFrustrated Hispanic female driver in a car
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Do you see red when a driver cuts you off in traffic, or your favorite football team fumbles the ball? Uncontrolled anger can lead to an increase in heart trouble, according to the Journal of American Medicine. When you get angry, stress hormones flood your body, which causes your face to flush, your heart to race and your blood pressure to rise. Chronically angry people have a significantly higher risk of cardiovascular disease. And if you’re a man, you’re more likely to experience this rage: males reported “higher rates of anger attacks/aggression, substance abuse, and risk-taking compared with women.”

The Rx: Anger is natural—we all get ticked off sometimes. But unsuppressed anger is bad for you, and it takes a toll. You might seek anger management therapy to find ways to manage your emotions. There’s no proof it will prevent a heart attack, but it can help your peace of mind.

Sad unhappy handsome man sitting on the sofa and holding his forehead while having headacheSad unhappy handsome man sitting on the sofa and holding his forehead while having headache
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There really is such a thing as dying of a broken heart—it’s not just something made up for romance novels. Broken Heart Syndrome is triggered by major stress, like the death of someone you love or an ugly breakup. It’s a temporary heart condition sometimes called takotsubo cardiomyopathy that disrupts your heart’s ability to pump normally. The good news is, broken heart syndrome is treatable and usually clears up within a few weeks.

The Rx: Don’t try to deal with the stress of losing a loved one alone. Reach out for help—whether to a trusted doctor, a therapist, or family and friends. No one has to go through that pain alone.

young smiling african american woman in casual clothes sitting near dog while walking in parkyoung smiling african american woman in casual clothes sitting near dog while walking in park
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Want to get heart healthy? The American Heart Association says that owning a dog is associated with lower risk of heart disease. Not only are dogs great companions, they get more than wagging their own tails—they get your tail moving. That’s because dogs need to be walked every day, and dog owners are 54 percent more likely to get at least the recommended level of exercise.

The Rx: Consider adopting a pet from the Humane Society.

Happy woman listening to music, shouting in bed, making the sing of the horns.Happy woman listening to music, shouting in bed, making the sing of the horns.
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Heavy metal music gets your blood pumping, but it doesn’t do much for your heart health. A study by the University of Florence found that patients who listened to classical, Celtic, or Indian music and practiced slow breathing for a half hour each day had significant improvements in blood pressure.

The Rx: Don’t throw out your favorite AC/DC t-shirt. But be aware of the calming effects of classical, and add some Mozart to your musical mix.

hispanic woman at home bedroom lying in bed late at night trying to sleep suffering insomnia sleeping disorder or scared on nightmares looking sad worried and stressedhispanic woman at home bedroom lying in bed late at night trying to sleep suffering insomnia sleeping disorder or scared on nightmares looking sad worried and stressed
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Sleep is essential for your health. When people suffer from insomnia, they’re not just exhausted—they’re at greater risk for all kinds of health problems. Insomnia is a sleep disorder characterized by not being able to fall asleep or stay asleep. Chronic insomnia is a sleep disturbance that happens at least three times per week and lasts for at least three months. This kind of insomnia is what puts you at greater risk. According to a report published in Hypertension, chronic insomnia is associated with a significant increase in hypertension.

The Rx: You don’t have to live with insomnia—it is treatable. The National Sleep Foundation recommends talking with your doctor for treatment options.

Woman sleeping in bedWoman sleeping in bed
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There really can be too much of a good thing when it comes to sleep. According to a study conducted in the United Kingdom, sleeping more than 9 hours per night is linked to a 30% greater risk of early death. And napping during the day can be just as dangerous. The Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found that women who take naps every day are 58% more likely to die from cardiovascular disease.

The Rx: Get a good night’s sleep – between 7 and 9 hours.

tired exhausted stressed womantired exhausted stressed woman
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If you wake up feeling exhausted every morning, and your partner complains that you snore a lot, you may have a condition called sleep apnea. It’s more than just annoying—it’s dangerous. Symptoms include high blood pressure, waking up gasping for air, and the inability to concentrate. With this disorder, the muscles in the back of your throat fail to keep the airway open. Not only does this give you a terrible night’s sleep and low blood oxygen levels, the National Sleep Association says it can lead to congestive heart failure, heart attack, and cardiac arrhythmia (a disturbance of your heart’s rhythm).

The Rx: Snoring can be a major health problem, so ask to see a sleep specialist if you think you might have sleep apnea. They can give you a diagnosis and treatment to help you get some quality sleep.

Overweight Woman Trying To Fasten TrousersOverweight Woman Trying To Fasten Trousers
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For decades, we’ve been told to worry about our body mass index (BMI) when it comes to weight. But a study by the North American Menopause Society showed that…

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